This week on #askNat I have the pleasure of answering a question sent in from Tony in South Carolina who writes:
Considering myself a fairly schooled, yet ‘amateur’ Beatles historian, I’m almost ashamed to ask this, but it has niggled at my brain throughout the years, and having read the finest and most informative writings on the group, I have yet to have this question answered: Who exactly is the creator of The Beatles’ universally-recognized logo? The stuffy-yet-hip font style? The large caps with smaller-sized caps? The centering of ‘The’ above ‘Beatles’? The classic extended ‘T’, is as unique today as it was then. It seems that this particular logo has been in existence since the ‘Beatles’ group name itself – but who created it?
Good question Tony and as usual I will take the liberty of going into a few extra details in presenting the answer you seek.
Since you are only asking “who” I will tell you the man’s name was Ivor Arbiter and he hails from the south of London. He opened up a music shop in London called Drum City n the late fifties after having worked as a drummer and also as a saxophone repairman. Ivor took much pride in the fact that he had the only drums-only store in London.
In April of 1963 Ringo Starr and Beatles manager Brian Epstein visited Drum City to find a replacement for Ringo’s Premier drum kit. Ringo eventually selected a Ludwig set with an oyster black pearl finish and Brian negotiated with Ivor for a trade-in of Ringo’s old kit. Ivor wanted the Ludwig logo to appear on the drum head since he’d recently started a distribution agreement with the company. Brian agreed on the condition that The Beatles name should be on it too. Ivor then made a quick spur-of-the-moment sketch of the famous “Drop-T logo” (as it was later referred to as) on a piece of scrap paper. Brian paid Ivor £5 for the design and he had a local sign expert, Eddie Stokes, paint the logo on the drum head. The upper case “B” and dropped “T” were appropriately meant to emphasize the word “beat.”
Ringo’s new kit was ready for pick-up by May 12th and along with some new Paiste cymbals, were delivered to Alpha Television Studios where the band went to film a performance for the television show Thank Your Lucky Stars. The show aired the following Saturday (May 18th) showing off Ringo’s new kit that sported the new logo for the first time as The Beatles mimed to “From Me To You” and “I Saw Her Standing There.”
By the end of the year the paint on the original drum head was flaking and so it was back to Drum City so that Eddie Stokes could repaint the logo (a little larger this time around) on a new drum head. The design for the original drum head was last seen in public on February 4, 1964 during their show at Paris’ Olympia Theatre. By their next performance which happened to be at the Ed Sullivan Show in New York on February 9th, the new drum head with the larger logo was in use. Legend has it that Ringo still has the original drum kit in his possession along with the first drum head with logo.
In 2010 Simon Garfield published Just My Type: A Book About Fonts and chapter 19, titled “The Serif Of Liverpool” discusses further the origins of the famous logo and even includes information from Paul McCartney himself about it. I’ve included an Amazon link for more on the book below.
Finally, I should point out that the “drop-T” logo is still in wide usage today on The Beatles Past Masters CD sets, The Beatles Rock Band, Stereo and Mono box sets (CD & new stereo vinyl), Anthology material and much more.
Thanks again Tony for a great question that I’m surprised did not come up earlier.
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Shop Amazon for any of your favorite Beatles-related music/books:
1) Just My Type: A Book About Fonts – 2012 reprint edition by Simon Garfield and including a chapeter that discusses The Beatles’ famous ‘drop-T logo.